Wednesday, April 24, 2013

My Kids Make Me a Better Housekeeper

Confession time: I am a slob. An unrepentant (mostly), inveterate, habitual slob. I'm not dirty, but I am messy. I like having my clothes in piles instead of in drawers or on hangers. I need my shoes out where I can see them, not tucked into cubbies or dangling from a shoe tree. I see no reason to keep my toothbrush anywhere other than right on the sink where I can grab it with soap in my eyes and my glasses off. And towels dry just as quickly when thrown haphazardly over the curtain rod as they do when folded neatly on a towel rack. I'm a slob, and I don't care who knows it.

When I got married to a neat and tidy husband, I learned to curb my messy tendencies. Somewhat. OK, a little bit. Okay, okay, a TEEENY TINY bit. I have a shoe tree that most of my shoes are on. Some of my clothes land in the closet even though others still live on the couch. I hang the towels neatly on the towel rod in my husband's bathroom all the time and even in my own bathroom when we have company.

But what really made me rein in my inner slob was having kids. Most parents get a little germaphobic when their first child is born, but I'm not talking cleanliness, just messiness. When you have a baby, the amount of stuff in your house expands exponentially. The crib, the car seats, the swing, the diaper pail, the high chair, the piles of diapers and wipes and medicines, the socks and the onesies and the cute little hats, the blankets and the stuffed animals and the rattles and the light-up toys, the binkies and the just never ends. You learn to be neat so your house doesn't implode from its own weight. But let's be honest: you also learn to be neat so you're never hunting for a binkie at 3am with an infant screeching in your ear. You learn to be neat so you know if you're about to dirty the last clean bottle and you need to run the dishwasher NOW before you're faced with a hungry child and a stack of unwashed bottles. You learn to be neat so an unexpected poopsplosion doesn't suddenly reveal that you're out of diapers/baby wipes/onesies.

And once your children become mobile, the need for neatness is even greater. Any item left on the floor will promptly be popped into a curious mouth, whether it be a stale Cheerio, a petrified raisin, a dead bug, a penny, or a small Lego piece. And speaking of small Lego pieces, the mobile child is not the only one whose tender toes are in imminent danger of being impaled by small toys left on the floor. What parent among us has not endured the agony of stepping on a Lego or a Barbie shoe or an abandoned Monopoly figurine with a bare foot in the middle of the night?

Being neat is a survival tactic.

Yes, motherhood has curbed some of my worst messy tendencies. But it more than makes up for it by allowing me to enjoy other types of messy fun: hands covered in sidewalk chalk dust, gluey pieces of macaroni sliding slimily across a piece of construction paper, licking the frosting off a chocolate cupcake, fingers squelching though mud in search of earthworms, cutting tissue paper into confetti, jumping in puddles. Motherhood is a wonderful balance between neat and messy!

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